Sandboxes, Honeypots, Software Containers: What Do They

Back when computers were first invented, they could only execute a single program that had full access to all the hardware on the computer. As technology advanced and computers became more powerful, researchers realized that it probably makes more sense to have several programs access system resources at the same time.


But this came at the cost of security. A single bad string of code or malware could infect the computer, spread across the entire network, and cause system failure. Several cyber-defense tactics emerged that allowed security professionals to prevent the spread of threat vectors.

Sandboxing, honeypots, and software containers are some popular technologies that help security analysts detect threats and observe the behavior of attackers in a secure environment. But what exactly are these tools? What do those terms mean? And what do they really do?

What Is Sandboxing?

Sandboxing is the process in which you create a controlled and isolated test environment to execute your code. The idea of sandboxing stems from a child’s sandbox, in which toys and sand are kept in a small container, so children can play safely.

With a sandbox, developers can test new or experimental code in a restricted environment, and prevent an unsafe string of code from infecting the entire network.

The sandboxing approach also allows security professionals to analyze older code for possible threats. By isolating the test environment, analysts can confidently evaluate the code without compromising the operating system or host devices.

Pros of Sandboxing

  • Test changes in projects before they go live.
  • Analyze potentially harmful applications for vulnerabilities.
  • Limit exposure of your host devices to potential threats.
  • Detect zero-day threats.

What Are Honeypots?

The term “honeypot” was first used by Clifford Stoll in his spy thriller book “The Cuckoo’s Egg”, in which he describes a method he used to halt computer espionage. Although the innovative concept came to light in 1986, it wasn’t until 1999 that security professionals started using honeypots to study the behavior of cybercriminals in a secured environment.

The honeypot tactic focuses on deliberately creating vulnerable systems to attract the attention of hackers. The main aim is to collect accurate data about the attackers that may be missed by detection tools.

When setting a honeypot strategy, a company first activates a few sensitive servers or systems and leaves a few loose ends untied. By leaving important information open to attack, the honeypot lures hackers into a controlled environment.

As the hackers infiltrate the network, cybersecurity researchers can observe their behavior and collect important information like IP addresses, ports, and files being accessed. Security teams concerned with defense can use this data to improve their network security and implement new defense mechanisms to counter similar attacks.

Pros of Honeypots

  • Spy on attackers and monitor their movements.
  • Collect important information about attackers and use it to thwart future infiltrations.
  • Collect valuable threat intelligence about zero-day attacks.

What Are Software Containers?

Software containerization is a relatively new technology causing a lot of excitement in the security world. Major tech companies including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook all use containers to create isolated user-space environments for their applications.

Containers work by bundling all the components of an application, such as binaries, libraries, and all its dependencies, into a single unit known as container image. This image can then run in an isolated space on the same operating system used by all other containers.

The host operating system restricts the container to access the system’s physical resources, so a single container can’t consume the entire resources of the host. This means that if anything goes wrong in a single container, its impact is limited only to that container.

Containers also eliminates platform compatibility issues since all the necessary components to run an application is held within the container.

Pros of Software Containers

  • Containers are lightweight since they only contain the basic components and dependencies of an app.
  • Solves compatibility issues.
  • Can easily be deployed almost anywhere.
  • Improves scalability.

Using Sandboxes, Honeypots, and Containers

Sandboxes, honeypots, and containers have pretty distinctive roles in cybersecurity, yet determining which security technology to use can be tricky.

Are you looking to analyze potentially harmful applications or prevent possible threats? In this case, sandboxing might be a good choice. Do you want to spy on attackers and devise a strategy against future infiltrations? In that case, honeypots might fit the bill.

In any event, it’s up to you as to which option makes the most sense for your use case, but understanding these key security technologies should prove a good starting point.


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